Part III – Joy is All Around Us
When you think of a social activity, what do you think of? Perhaps a rave? Or maybe a quiet bridge foursome is more your style? Or even a Matrix-style meet-and-greet complete with latex and contortionists? Ahem…
Or maybe you’ve finally let go of this old-world requirement to actually be in the presence of an individual to enjoy a social encounter with them, and instead have embraced the reality of the 21st century, that society and social interactions no longer require physical presence, and instead surround us every day, at every minute, as long as we (virtually) get out there and find them. Speaking as a long-time online gamer, I have a circle of folks I consider friends, with whom I talk most evenings, with whom I’ve spent quality time learning and beating goal-based activities, yet none of whom I’ve ever met. And whilst their reaction to some family tragedy on my part may result in no more than a weak “dude, that blows…” on some forum or other, in every other aspect of social interplay, they fulfill exactly the same role as those few- and far-between actual, you know, friends that each of us cling to throughout life.
According to a study on the topic conducted earlier this decade, friendship is becoming something of a luxury for the average American adult. Rather than expanding our circle of friends as travel has become more reachable for the masses, we’ve instead decreased that circle from an average of 3 to just above 1. So are we all just becoming obnoxious, introverted, “bah humbug!” Ebenezer Scrooge wannabes? Perhaps, and certainly that’s the trite response to the statistics for people in search of a quick buzzword or appliance to blame.
But perhaps instead of this reflecting a net diminution of our quality of life, we’re simply replacing much of what was considered necessary in previous generations (beer with the boys, poker night, ice fishing trips, whatever floats your boat) with a more constant, more consistent, but at the same time more arms length notion of friendship and social interaction. Though different, it fulfills everything we need in terms of communication and support, but leaves us free to concentrate on our family lives, or personal hobbies, or whatever else makes us happy to be, well, us.
Friendship when we want it, on our terms, and only then.
One potential projection of all of this can be found in the ongoing trending of the social nexus of life, business and relationships towards the online marketplaces that have sprung up around activity-, or focus-based requirements (I referred to this in my first post on this topic, drawing the correlation between Facebook and dating, LinkedIn and prospecting, etc.).
Find a marketplace, find a life (or maybe, a Second Life) – and frankly, is that really any different from the actual bricks-and-mortar reality of the rat-infested, smelly locales of the distant past (minus, you know, the scary crone shouting on the street corner, and the propensity for picking up the Black Death at a moment’s notice…)?
Indeed, my Chief Architect likes to describe an attendee at a recent conference as saying something like, “But what should we do about all these old people who can only e-mail or even worse need to use the phone? I mean, how am I supposed to communicate with somebody who doesn’t have a Facebook account, or doesn’t keep up with Twitter?” Note that this wasn’t a casual conversation over a beer, but rather a key point in a presentation (presumably to a room full of people with the requisite qualifications to be able to laugh affably at such an observation).
Whether we like it or not, whether we can personally deal with our relationships migrating into the ether, that’s where they’re headed, at double-quick time. So are you the guy with a red flag making sure that cars only drive at the same speed as horses, or are you busy building a Formula 1 car in your back yard?
And actually, perhaps more importantly, whether you’re either of these, you’d better believe your staff are busy climbing onboard with everything the new paradigm has to offer, so do you really want to be left playing catch up?
At a recent customer meeting I was surprised to hear that this highly compartmentalized, classified installation was putting a social media strategy in place (they termed it “our space”) to embrace what was happening anyway, and obviously to attempt to contain it within the security mechanisms required by their business. If they can do it, with all the restrictions and fenced-off classified strictures they have to deal with, why can’t we all?
Code review, you say? Social code review, more like. The current means of accomplishing the goal is fundamentally broken and will never scale, just like the requirement to only befriend people you could physically reach out and touch. The paradigm is changing, time to keep up…
And now in a deferential nod to the awesome Douglas Adams, this trilogy of posts on code review as a social activity will be continued in part IV, coming to a blog near you soon.